Police in Tennessee have gone viral for a dire warning that people should not flush drugs like methamphetamines down the toilet, lest the substances make it into the water supply and get wildlife “hyped up on meth.”
“Ducks, Geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do,” wrote the Loretto Police Department on Saturday in a Facebook post about a man who allegedly tried to flush his stash when police were searching his home. “Furthermore, if it made it far enough we could create meth-gators in Shoal Creek and the Tennessee River down in North Alabama.”
The department added, “They’ve had enough methed up animals the past few weeks without our help,” apparently referencing an Alabama police department’s claim that a local man recently got his pet squirrel high on meth. (The squirrel owner denies those allegations.)
The warning is getting a lot of attention, since the idea of alligators made aggressive by meth sounds unequivocally terrifying. However, University of Florida biologist Ken Vliet told NBC News that he thinks that specific fear is overblown.
“I would guess they might be affected by it, but they tend to not react to drugs in the same way we do, and I don’t know if it would take a little or a lot to get an alligator to do something on meth,” Vliet said. “I think it’s a ridiculous notion. If you flush meth it’s going to be diluted.”
But even if gators aren’t getting high, there are plenty of other good reasons not to flush methamphetamines or other drugs, legal or illegal.
“There are much more immediate and impactful water quality issues to focus on than methed-up alligators,” Kathy Hawes, executive director of the environmental group Tennessee Clean Water Network, told HuffPost in an email.
Hawes noted that sewage treatment plants are already “at capacity” with their efforts to filter wastewater, and are further strained by people dumping pharmaceuticals down the drain.
“More pollution of any sort puts our public drinking water — and our natural environment — at risk,” she said. “Public water utilities already struggle to get industrial pollutants ... out of our wastewater before it goes out again. One can only imagine how an influx of concentrated methamphetamines can screw up a filtration system.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has published guidelines on disposing of pharmaceuticals, including information on drug take-back programs and information on how to safely dispose of drugs in the trash if necessary.